IEA warns of another oil price war soon

The oil market has been on edge for a while now, entertaining the possibility of a new price war within the OPEC+ alliance, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said, adding that the current impasse is also threatening to derail the global economic recovery.

In June, global oil demand is estimated to have jumped by as much as 3.2 million barrels per day (bpd) to 96.8 million bpd, the agency said in its closely watched Oil Market Report for July. For the rest of the year, oil demand will continue to rebound thanks to solid economic growth, rising vaccination rates, and easing of restrictions in many economies, the IEA said. 

Yet, the oil market is jittery because of the ongoing OPEC+ deadlock, with increased volatility that helps neither producers nor consumers, the agency noted.

“At the same time, the possibility of a market share battle, even if remote, is hanging over markets, as is the potential for high fuel prices to stoke inflation and damage a fragile economic recovery. The uncertainty over the potential global impact of the Covid-19 Delta variant in the coming months is also tempering sentiment,” the IEA’s monthly report says.

The already week-long stalemate means that until a compromise can be reached, OPEC+ will leave production quotas in August flat compared to July’s levels. This will surely tighten the market much more as global oil demand continues to rebound. The excess oil inventories in developed economies are already below historical averages, and without OPEC+ easing its production cuts, we could see a significantly tighter market with especially tight crude oil balances, the IEA said.

Oil prices at current or higher levels could incentivize electrification, but high prices could also slow down the economic recovery, especially in large emerging markets, the Paris-based agency said. Prices at the pump jumped to a seven-year high in the United States. They are also rising across Europe, and reached all-time highs in India, the world’s third-largest crude oil importer, the IEA noted.

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